Notes in Anguish

I began writing for The Muslim, an Islamabad paper, in Jan 1991.

What drove me to do this was a growing awareness that corruption was seeping into society and corroding its moral moorings at an alarming rate. Individuals were being broken down by it and felled, and these infected individuals were in turn corroding institutions. With fraying institutions whether cultural, moral, or administrative, a society begins to crumble. With the crumbling of society, a country could not hold.

Year upon year, and then month by month, markers of the spread of this deadly malady could be spotted. By these the decline could almost be measured by its expanding reach, its building appetite and scale, and its shameless acceptance. From becoming second nature to those who defined and rode society, it was fast becoming their prime necessity and driving force. This force was gaining momentum and bulldozing the national ethos at a startling rate, seeping into the moral foundation of the nation, and rendering it hollow, becoming in the process, an existential threat to it. After the shamelessness of its prime practictioners, and its acceptance by those who could do little about it, the greatest allies in its unimpeded spread were the general unconsciousness of its virulence and where this would lead us, and also those who had it in their power to become an obstacle to its spread, but refused to do so, either on account of the lack of cognizance, or of will.

The more I wrote on the subject of corruption, the more I thought about it. The more I thought, the more acutely I became conscious of the fact that historically Pakistan was an artificially created country with all the frailties of such entities. When such a country was afflicted by a wasting disease eating away at its foundations, during its youth, and this was not checked, such a country could not survive into adulthood. And because it was artificially created, once destroyed, no one would be able to put it together again. With this disease picking up rage, It needed no external enemy to demolish our country. It would be destroyed from within. Unabated corruption would be quite adequate to the task of driving Pakistan to bankruptcy. And this would lead to its destruction. This would begin by the destruction of every institution, and concurrently with it, the moral fibre of society. Without these two there could not be any result other than the disintegration of society. And when society disintegrates, the country which is built upon it, cannot hold.

This was so clear to me that it was beyond me to understand why, those who counted themselves as “intellectuals”, seemed to be sufficiently unaware of what was eating away at Pakistan, so that NOT ONE of them made this a regular theme of his outpourings. Why did they not with consistency and at its loudest volume, sound the alarm which the exigency of the looming threat begged of them to sound? Perhaps they were intellectuals who came shorn of social empathy!

And I could not understand why the army, which should always have known that the financial and economic security of the country should have been the principal national security imperative with them, remained unaware of this galloping corruption. The army should have known that a bankrupt country could not field an army in battle which could last even a day, and not be on its knees before the enemy fired its first shot. And though the army was seeing Pakistan being pushed into bankruptcy on account of deliberate policies and massive theft, it failed to move even a finger towards salvaging the country which was paying for their services to defend it, and to keep Pakistan secure.

Most people knew that the army was involved in political engineering for most of its 76 years. They did not mind this. Indeed, they saw in this an act whereby the army was providing a balance, and thus protection to them, by not allowing things to spin completely out of control. In its periodic forays into the halls of power, most saw the army providing relief to them from the unfettered depredations of the politicians. They had faith in the army. They believed it was incorruptible. Virtually no one suspected that in the very act of political engineering by the army, people of choice were being placed by it to make use of unimpeded access to the national treasury. And behind them soon, the generalship of the army began extending its own hands into this treasury. And then there were also those who were not willing to see what the army was doing. This unwillingness arose due to biases in favour of the army, which in turn were driven by a lazy conceit, unwilling to concede to themselves that their well loved army could be falling victim to moral deterioration.

Then, with Musharraf’s NRO came a great change. The army was no longer involved just in political engineering. Its High Command side-stepped its principal function, and joined the mega thieves whom it had created or facilitated, in overt theft. Again, most of us could not see this, till at last, on April 10, 2022, in an act of supreme treachery, it did away with any pretence that it stood with the nation. Having thrown aside its modestly and standing naked at high noon, its High Command shamelessly announced, without a word, that they were standing squarely behind mega thieves, thugs, and pimps, and by their own interests. The only legitimacy they could cite in support of their unannounced assumption of total power was the six lakh bayonets which were under their command. And then they hoped to draw legitimacy from the lies which poured forth from their tongues to cover the crimes they were compelled to commit in order to hold on to their position of power. When digging out shaheeds and trotting them out in support of their misdeeds became a jaded trick, this time on May 9 they brought out the children of the nation in support of the shaheeds who had lost their shine. This was a sure sign that the national cupboard of martial tricks to divert our attention was fast being laid bare. The time is fast approaching therefore, when the High Command itself would need to play monkeys for our relief and amusement, because nothing else will work.

When this trick also loses its fun, will come the time when our army will have to be deployed on the streets to confront an enraged population. When the first citizen is brought down, we shall have entered the last bloody phase of a course which began with petty tarceny, grew into mega theft, and blossomed in national bankruptcy, to the point where Pakistan has no economy left today, except to take fresh loans to repay old ones.

The last phase of this catastrophic fall was reached under the stewardship of two Army Chiefs who pulled out all the pimps to help them out. The second of these Chiefs has reached a state of such befuddlement that he can muster the gall to order us, whose mandate he stole, to beg his forgiveness in return for which he promised us relief. During our fall, our expectations of the army have fallen apace, while his from us have steadily risen. This gap between them has become too great. This happens only to an abandoned and betrayed people. To close this gap the people need to bring his expectations down. This will begin to happen when the people decide to take hold of their destiny. For this they will need to come onto the streets and pay with their blood, Only when he and his High Command begin to fear more for their necks, than our fear of giving blood, will redemption come.

The first flame of this fire was lit in Azad Kashmir on May 11. This will spread to other parts of the country which may well see a resort to Martial Law, or rule under an emergency. If either happens, this will mean that Washington has given its blessings. In either case, the current insurgencies are bound to pick up steam, which will suck into their ranks, the disgruntled and fearless among our youth looking for vengeance. A rich promise of serious civil disturbances lies ahead.

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